Nvidia Project Shield - Mobile and PC gaming collide

Marries its two main strengths with Nvidia Project Shield

Nvidia Project Shield is easily the most exciting and innovative piece of technology to some out of CES so far this year - and it came out of nowhere. The strange looking joypad-with-a-screen had us scratching our heads at first - but it actually makes perfect sense.

Essentially it’s a portable games console for Android games. It looks like a traditional two-stick, many buttoned, gaming controller – but with a 5in, 720p display stuck on top. The display folds down as a lid when you want to take it out-and about with you, making it a fairly portable item – for a bag that is rather than a pocket.

Nvidia Project Shield

Inside the device is the new Nividia Tegra 4 chipset, which as we’ve detailed elsewhere looks to be a very powerful bit of kit. Now Project Shield will run any Android games, but as with the upcoming Kickstarter smash Ouya , it’s intended to work with more traditional console-style games designed with a traditional controller in mind.

However, none of that is the really clever part.

The clever bit is that project Shield can work with a gaming PC to bring you wireless gaming in your own home, and we’d guess eventually anywhere with a lag-free enough connection. The graphics card in your PC (or laptop) does the heavy lifting and you control and view the game using your Project Shield. It connects over Wi-Fi via your router using dual-band 802.11n.

Nvidia Project Shield

Play PC titles such as Hawken anywhere in your home

Using the joypad-friendly, Steam Big Picture mode, you’ll easily be able to launch PC games using the joypad. Plus a HDMI output on the device means you can hook it up to your HDTV for playing PC games on your living room TV.

Nvidia Project Shield

we'd rather have Xbox-style offset sticks, but otherwise it looks good

With Project Shield then, Nvidia is taking its two key strengths – high-end PC graphics and powerful mobile chipsets – and placing them together in a product that uses the latter to help maintain the importance of the former. In short Nvidia is using its burgeoning mobile business to give its traditional graphics business a shot of adrenaline.

THE UPSIDE

Project Shield is a bit of an odd idea, but it could really catch on. It’s a serious gaming device you can take everywhere with you, a constant companion, the same controller for every game – mobile, PC and even possibly console games. If that HDMI port worked both as an output and an input then the controller and screen could be connected to an Xbox 360 (or its successor) and used for playing games that way too. That last point aside, it’s going to be the must-have device for serious gamers who like a wide range of games – and who doesn't.

Nvidia Project Shield

Micro SD slot, HDMI, USB and headphone jack

Android games the best around at present, there’s still a definite lack of top quality content on the platform compared to iPhone and iPad. But then with developers having both this and the Ouya to develop joypad friendly mobile titles for, it could finally mean that Android gaming finds its own space to call home. Nvidia also has lots of experience, and good relations with developers, so persuading them to consider Project Shield seriously shouldn't be too hard.

Nvidia Project Shield

As it's an Android device it's also good for watching movies, or running other apps

SOME WORRIES

If it does become your everyday gaming companion then that controller will be getting a lot of use, so it will need to be designed to survive all that abuse, and be easy to repair should something wear out or break.

Our other key concern is that you will need a pretty recent Nvidia-powered PC or laptop for all this to work. An Nvidia GeForce 650 card is the minimum specification listed, and one of those will set you back around £85 at present, so hardly a fortune, and Nvidia may do bundle deals for PC owners who want to upgrade.

Desktop PCs are hardly flavour of the month though, and an Nvidia 660M mobile chipset (as you’d find in a laptop or all-in-one PC) is a fairly rare piece of kit, we’ve only seen it recently on some serious little gaming laptops like the Schenker XMG A722 .

Those aside, Project Shield is an exciting bit of kit and we’re really hoping for a launch, and a review model, for later this year.

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